Materials used in producing textiles are varied, wide ranging – e.g. from fibres to fine chemicals - and dependent on the application or end-use of a particular textile. For example, Fig.1 illustrates that in the production of a textile, the first step is the selection of a suitable fibre type or combinations of fibre types. Generally, selection is based on the cost effectiveness of achieving certain required attributes or properties in the end product - such as softness, drape, strength – or, increasingly so today, on imparted functionalities like flame resistance, super hydrophobicity, and oleophobicity.
Fig 1. Basic Sequence of Materials Utilisation
In order to utilise the properties of the chosen fibres, a series of processes is selected to convert them into a flexible sheet material or some other required form, e.g. rope, braid or tape. For sheet materials this can be done directly by producing a nonwoven fabric or by the sequential stages of spinning a yarn then weaving or knitting a fabric with the yarn and finally, if required, dyeing & finishing the fabric to achieve the functionalities or attributes desired, such as antimicrobial, flame resistance, stain resistance, etc. In all these stages of conversion three aspects of materials selection need to be considered: the choice of structure (e.g. nonwovens – spun bonded, needle bonded, hydro-entangled, etc; wovens – plain weave, twill weave, etc), the processing aid for conversion (e.g. in yarn production – spinning oils, antistatic additives, etc) , and colorants, finishing aids & additives (e.g. dyes, pigments, detergents, softners, etc).
The following sections will deal with the materials for each of the process stages indicated in Fig.1. The approach taken is to, where possible, use charts and tables in categorising / classifying the relevant materials with internet links to more detailed information. As and when considered useful for clarity, technical descriptions are also given.